Cutting the forest, draining the peatKatingan is a peat swamp—a huge wet sponge of vegetation without mineral soils, covered with tropical rainforest. Take away the forest and drain the swamp, and the fragile ecosystem is lost—along with the carbon that has been stored over thousands of years.
It usually happens like this: Plantation companies move into the area and open up large canals to drain the water out so their introduced tree and crop species can grow. The peat quickly dries up, releasing massive amounts of carbon dioxide. Soon, fires follow, releasing even more carbon dioxide and paving the way for the plantation—usually palm oil—to take hold.
The rush for plantation land is seen in the area surrounding the Katingan Project area. Local community members have reported that oil palm companies repeatedly come to their villages trying to persuade people to abandon their land and way of life.
In the absence of the Katingan Project, many poor communities in search of quick cash and jobs are likely to engage with oil palm companies, because there are few alternative livelihood options available to them.
With global demand for palm oil continuing to grow, the pressure on Katingan is unlikely to ease off any time soon.